Confession: I Failed at Balancing Toddler and Puppy

Beating a sinus infection without antibiotics

I guess it’s been a while since I’ve written here. Life has just kind of exploded on many fronts lately. I did manage to finally beat down the cold around February 2nd. I do think I had a sinus infection but credit my many daily neti pot rinses for helping me clear out the infection. I also began putting Dessert Essence Tea Tree Oil Mouthwash into my neti pot, with an equal part water. I think the gentle wash of Tea Tree Oil helped kill off some of the bacteria. Finally, I began hot and cold showers to bring blood to my head to promote healing (focusing very hot water and then very cold, alternating about 5 times each, on my sinus area).

Hearing loss, Ear perforation, and February colds

The day after my cold symptoms dried up, Josh came down with a new cold and fever, directly after I closed the door on our last guest, leaving after a mid-winter get together for my spanish rice and good conversation. This latest cold seems to be located more in Josh’s chest, but he still has a great deal of congestion. His ENT had already put him on ear drops last week because the right ear kept oozing, even after Josh’s antibiotic treatment in the ER. So I am keeping the drops going, hoping this new cold doesn’t bring on yet another infection. So far, Josh has been without his right hearing aid for three weeks now! Ughh. I am not sure how all of this draining is impacting his hearing levels. Thankfully, we see his audiologist on Monday. I am learning that colds are no small matter for a child with hearing loss and a perforated ear drum.

Life Drenched in Chaos

In the middle of all of this, Chris’s mom has been placed in the care of Hospice. Chris is so very close to his mom and she is such an amazing woman. It is very difficult to see her struggling at the end of her life, one very well lived. Chris is also going through extensive job stress, rich with fodder for transitions. I will leave it at that, without elaboration. Suffice it to say, Chris has had to continually work some long days. With all of the sickness, Chris’s work stress, the mounting sensory issues with Josh, and Chris’s mom’s health declining, I realized during a sickness-induced-sleepless-night epiphany, that we were well over our capacity to handle everything going on in our lives. Something had to give. The only thing that could give was the puppy.

The Part Where I Realize Our Lives Cannot Handle a Puppy

So here is the story of a small letting go that I had to do. I had been feeling very bad for our puppy ever since Hannah left (Hannah really helped us so much with the dog for the four weeks she was home, even though she had rightly told me in November that she couldn’t believe we were getting a puppy because our lives were too chaotic already–wise wise girl). Because the puppy seemed to trigger many of Josh’s sensory “meltdowns” (I’ll call them), we had to put up baby gates between the kitchen and the rest of the house. Ozzie had to live in the kitchen. It was sort of okay while Hannah was home, because she (for whatever reason) tends to park herself in the kitchen with her computer during most waking hours. Once she left, however, I realized that our puppy was spending most of his time alone (and Springers are very social creatures). And even Chris’s evening time with him had been severely curtailed due to Chris’s recent long hours (or should I say, even longer hours) at work. The final straw was when I realized that I was no longer even cooking dinner because I couldn’t have Josh and the dog together and Chris was getting home too late to take one or the other, so that I could cook. For a while I thought I had just lost my cooking mojo, but it finally occurred to me that it was the whole dog in the kitchen, Josh elsewhere, deal.

The Gift of My Cold

During the peak of my nasty cold, at about 3:00 am, I realized that we shouldn’t continue to try to keep Ozzie. It wasn’t fair to Ozzie or Josh. Neither could understand the other. So, the next morning, I literally raised my hand in front of Chris and said, “I admit it. I messed up. This puppy thing wasn’t a good idea. You were right. We should have waited at least another year.” (Now I know we’ll need to wait at least another 5-6 years, given Josh’s dramatic sensory issues–diagnosed the very day before we picked up Ozzie). Anyway, Chris was visibly relieved to hear my words. And the Springer Rescue organization through which Ozzie came to us was very gracious about taking him back. He went back to his original foster family for a week or so and then they found him a new home, with two older boys who can love him the way he deserves. In all of this, it was never about Ozzie. Ozzie was such a smart, good puppy. He always rang a bell to go outside to use the bathroom, he didn’t bite, he was always appropriately submissive, he was never territorial about food or toys, and he really wanted to play with Josh and love Josh (I like to say he was the right dog, at the wrong time). Josh just wasn’t in an appropriate place for a puppy, whose unpredictable movements seemed to cause Josh huge anxiety.

The morning Chris drove away with Ozzie, and I took down the two gates dividing the kitchen and the rest of our house, Josh became noticeably less stressed. He began to run around the “race track” of our lower level again, pushing his stroller and he seemed finally, once again, able to be left alone for a second without panicking (which hadn’t happened since before Ozzie). I knew, instantly, that we had made the right decision. And that was the lesson of my prolonged illness. It brought me to the point where I could recognize that the whole puppy thing wasn’t about helping Josh, or Ozzie, or even Ethan (who never payed any attention to Ozzie whatsoever); in fact, the whole puppy thing had really only been about me and some ideal that I had in my mind (that Ozzie would help Josh learn to accept more new things and become a fabulous therapy dog someday, etc.). I needed to let go of that ideal, for everyone’s sake, and see the reality for what is was. It just wasn’t working for anyone, especially Ozzie. We often talk now about Ozzie still and miss him. Yesterday, Josh said to me “Ozzie will be here soon.” And last week he said, “I don’t see Ozzie in this place (being our house).” This must be his way of processing the change. Chris said to me this morning, “Ozzie is in a better place.” Yep, I think that is right.

Incidentally, I did quite a bit of crying the night before Ozzie left us. I wasn’t just letting go of my dog dream, I was letting go (once again–special needs parents go through a series of grieving episodes, I believe), of the dream of the Standard “Normal” Child. Maybe we mostly want that so-called “perfect” child to make it easier on ourselves. Or maybe we just hate the idea of seeing a less-than perfect child struggle in life. Somehow being blessed with a special needs child has brought me down to my knees at many junctures. I worry sometimes that I don’t have what it takes to raise this special guy; that he should have somehow been given to a less imperfect mother. One who is more laid-back and who doesn’t worry so over each new health development or diagnosis, one who can see through the daily grind and really count each little blessing and joy and pull them close to support her in her often lonely “special needs” raft. But as I cried for Ozzie that night, I also cried for Josh and then I released the need to have our life match some ideal. I released Josh to be exactly who he is supposed to be and me to be the mother that I am, imperfect and all.

And so for today, we are still here, in this place (where Ozzie isn’t) in all of our chaos and stress. And we still have a special needs toddler. That fact hasn’t changed. But at least with Ozzie gone we can, once again, make Josh our full priority. And that is probably how it has to be, for quite some time. And that is okay. It is where we are. It is how it should be.


2 thoughts on “Confession: I Failed at Balancing Toddler and Puppy

  1. What a tough decision to make – you had great wisdom in realizing things weren’t going to work out with the puppy, and making the decision to give him to another family. So many times, we try to force things into the “standard” mold and our lives don’t follow the well-trodden path.

    The road less traveled by doesn’t have any signposts or travel guides – you have to make up the directions as you go along. Josh sounds so much happier running around the house!

    I need to try the tea tree oil in a neti pot. My sinuses have had some trouble this winter – I think the constant warming and cooling of the weather has something to do with it.

    Ear infections are really tough with hearing aids. Nolan had one that lasted for EIGHT weeks. It was heinous. And the drops cause him agony for some reason. I need to talk to the ENT about that…

  2. Yes. The drops are giving Josh agony too. They were fine for the first 5 days and then they started going down his throat and they make him gag. Now I have to wrestle him to the ground to get them in. I feel so bad. Two more days of drops. Then I can return to brushing. Only so much “forcing” I can do with Josh each day.

    If you use tea tree oil, be sure to make it extremely diluted. By using the tea tree oil mouthwash, I knew it probably already had an acceptable ratio for touching delicate internal membranes–but even so, I diluted that further and it still burned a little. I know a guy who used to put hydrogen peroxide in his neti pot. Now that was extreme!

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